I generally understand that proper Japanese uses Hiragana and Katakana is for slang/foreign words. Given that, my first name is super American but my last name is Japanese. Would I then make my first name Katakana and last name Hiragana?

(I haven't touched Kanji yet, so let's just stick to those two for now!)

  • 1
    Presumably "Aaron Higa" is your actual name, and not just a user handle on here?
    – istrasci
    Oct 4 '18 at 19:56
  • 1
    Katakana entirely would be the general practice.
    – Angelos
    Oct 4 '18 at 20:53
  • Unless you know the Kanji that make up your family name (because there are variations!) you're better off sticking to all Katakana.
    – psosuna
    Oct 4 '18 at 23:37

Foreigners's names are usually written in katakana, even when their names are based in Japanese.

For example, Michio Kaku is a Japanese-American with a full Japanese name, and yet his name is usually written in katakana.

Other examples:

But if you are living or wants to live in Japan you can adopt a 通称名, a name to be used inside Japan.
Then you can adopt a name in kanji, if you want to. You can for example change Higa to the original kanji name.


If you live in Japan, I think it would depend on your nationality.

If you are a Japanese national, then you may use the Kanji surname in official documents because that is how it's supposed to be recorded in your Family Register (called 戸籍{こせき}), unless for some reason it was purposedly registered in Katakana, which is kinda strange if one of your parents is Japanese.

If you are a non-Japanese national, it has to be in Katakana in official documents. If you still want to use Kanji, you may after you register a legal alias (called 通称名{つうしょうめい}) in the municipality that you live in, but there could be limitations to its usage.

For non-official documents, I don't think it will be a big issue if you use Kanji, but then it might be confusing later on to remember which name you used where.

I tried to look for official (Japanese Government) sources in English but couldn't find any. You can get more information from below references:

  1. https://www.japan-guide.com/forum/quereadisplay.html?0+162645
  2. As a foreigner with a Japanese name, what are the implications of writing my name in katakana or kanji?
  • 1
    May I ask why the -1?
    – DXV
    Oct 5 '18 at 1:59

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